Municipal waste statistics for Ireland

EPA waste data release 25 Sept. 2020. Latest reference year 2018.

Municipal waste is made up of household waste and commercial waste that is similar to household waste. The EPA reports data on how much municipal waste is generated and how it is treated.

In 2018, Ireland generated 2,912,353 tonnes of municipal waste and recycled 38 per cent of it.  

MSW arriving and being picked for initial sorting

What is municipal waste? 

In our everyday lives we produce a general mix of waste in our homes, offices, schools and similar premises. This type of waste is called municipal waste. It is usually collected at kerbside or we can bring it to collection centres.  The amount of municipal waste generated in our country is an important measure of how wasteful our everyday lives are.

Municipal Waste includes these following waste types:

  • Residual (i.e. black bin) waste e.g. waste that cannot be recycled
  • Recyclable (i.e. green bin) waste e.g. glass, plastic, paper & board, metals
  • Organic (i.e. brown bin) waste e.g. food and garden waste
  • Bulky waste e.g. waste that cannot fit in a wheelie bin such as broken furniture, carpets, toys etc. 
  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

 

Key trends 

  • Ireland generated 2.9 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2018, up 3.5% on 2017.
  • Some 1.1 million tonnes of Ireland’s municipal waste was recycled in 2018, resulting in a recycling rate of 38% in 2018, down from 40% in 2017 and 41% in 2016. These trends indicate that Ireland faces significant challenges to meet the upcoming EU recycling targest for 2020 to 2035 (Figure 1).
  • Of the municipal waste recycled in 2018, 851,294 tonnes went for material recycling and 245,482 tonnes was composted.
  • A total of 1.2 million tonnes (43%) of municipal waste went for incineration with energy recovery in 2018, up significantly from 32% in 2017 and just 7% in 2012. These trends reflect increased incineration capacity nationally, and a shift away from disposing of residual waste to landfill.
  • Ireland’s landfill rate for municipal waste dropped to just 14% in 2018, down significantly from 23% in 2017 and reflecting a continuing steep decline from 62% in 2008 (Figure 2).
  • Ireland remains heavily reliant on export markets; altogether 35% of Ireland’s municipal waste was exported for recycling or recovery in 2018 (over 654,000 tonnes for recycling, 287,000 tonnes for energy recovery and almost 75,000 tonnes for composting). A further 6,000 tonnes was exported for disposal.
  • Overall, the current trends indicate that more needs to be done to prevent waste and break the link between economic growth and waste generation, as well as to significantly increase Ireland’s recycling rates in the coming years.

Future focus

Ireland’s recycling percentage has not improved significantly between 2012 and 2018; and is below future EU municipal waste recycling targets. To improve municipal waste recycling percentages and reach future EU tragets, we need to

  • Prevent waste: buy less, instead swap, share and repair.
  • Recycle more.

This will also reduce our emissions and use of raw materials.

  • Table 1. Municipal waste generated, managed and treated

    Open in Excel: Table 1 Municipal (XLS 12KB)

  • Table 2 Municipal waste exported

    Open in Excel: Table 2. Municipal (XLS 11KB)

  • Table 3. Municipal waste managed

    Open in Excel: Table 3. Municipal (XLS 9KB)

  • Table 4. Municipal waste by origin and type

    Open in Excel: Table 4.Municipal (XLS 11KB)

European reporting

The EPA submits municipal waste data for Ireland to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, as part of the annual OECD/Eurostat Joint Questionnaire. The data are submitted in Q3-4 of the reference year +2 (i.e. 2019 data were collected and processed in 2020 and will be submitted to Eurostat in Q3-4 2022). Following validation by Eurostat, official statistics for Ireland and all Member States are published on the Eurostat website as part of the ‘Municipal waste by waste management operations’ dataset [env_wasmun]: https://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=env_wasmun&lang=en  Data on municipal waste recycling rates for Member States are published at: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/databrowser/view/cei_wm011/default/table?lang=en